On “Genesis,” the intro to his debut album Illmatic, a young Nasir Jones remarked: “When it’s real, you doing this even without a record contract.” Fittingly then, Nas took it back to the beginning with a free concert in Central Park yesterday (August 15) to mark his ten-year anniversary as a recording artist.
“This is real hip-hop,” the Queensbridge emcee told the audience after he entered to “N.Y. State of Mind.” “Not that fake s**t like 50 Cent.”
Nas, wearing sunglasses, a wife beater, black jeans, and a pair of Air Jordans, also had some choice words for the Diplomats, which brought more cheers from the crowd. But the attention of the audience quickly turned elsewhere.
While Nas was performing an outbreak occurred outside of the concert area as fans that were left out of the show suddenly rushed the venue from all sides attempting to get in. The interruption caused a ten-minute delay as members of the New York Police Department restored order to the concert. During the delay, God’s Son called for peace and ranted against both presidential candidates, calling President Bush a “gangsta” and Senator Kerry a “punk.”
As the concert resumed, Nas continued with his hits off Illmatic and brought Q-Tip onstage with him to perform “One Love.” Tip praised Nas calling him the only rapper to represent life in its totality. The former A Tribe Called Quest front man, however, was only the first guest of the afternoon.
A few cuts later, AZ and Nas were reunited as Sosa and Escobar when they performed “Phone Tap,” which Nas dedicated to the hip-hop unit of the NYPD. On “Life’s a B*tch,” AZ effortlessly ripped into his verse as he calmly came from backstage to surprise the crowd. Nas, on the other hand, appeared winded as he stumbled over his verse and finished each bar in a jazz scat fashion. Although the Bravehearts, Large Professor and his fiancée Kelis were onstage, Nas went through most of the show without a hype man.
That’s until Busta Rhymes inexplicably joined him to ride shotgun on “Hate Me Now.” The animated emcee brought the audience to a high pitch as he did his best Spliff Star impression. “Get your mother f***in’ hands up,” he barked.
Mobb Deep showed up to rhyme alongside Nas during “Eye For An Eye.” With Havoc and Prodigy flanking Nas, the trio looked like the Three Kings of QB. Nas then squashed any lingering beef with P as they hugged after a performance of “Got It Twisted.”
“I love these n*****,” Nas proclaimed to the crowd.
After performing a medley of his hits, Nas told the audience there was one particular song he didn’t perform anymore, which only made them want it more. “Ether, Ether, Ether,” they chanted as Nas easily acquiesced. But after performing only one verse fans began to boo before Nas started the track once more.
“Y’all crazy,” Nas said to another chant of “Ether” when he stopped the song again after the second verse. “I got love for that brother [Jay-Z].”
Nas closed out the afternoon warning young girls to stay away from R.Kelly on “I Can,” popping to “Apache” before performing “Made You Look,” and catching the spirit on “One Mic.”
Earlier in the day, an exhibition of sorts of the Four Elements of Hip-Hop served as the opener. A DJ battle was held between two participants; one a Japanese man who said he lived in Queensbridge only to draw a chorus of boos when he attempted to mix over a Jay-Z track. Crazy Legs and “the new generation” of the Rock Steady Crew participated in a break dancing routine. And members of the Tats Cru tagged a banner throughout Nas and Mobb Deep’s performance.
Although spoken-word artist Saul Williams performed, the only MC fans were celebrating on this day was Mr. Jones. Lead by DJ L.E.S., thousand of finger pointed towards Nas as fans recited the chorus to “You’re Da Man.” And on this summer afternoon, he certainly was.